Banned Books Week highlights books that have been challenged, censored or banned. The OCOM Library has chosen to take part in this celebration by making commonly challenged books available to OCOM students and staff during Banned Books Week. Come by the library to check out our display and maybe pick up a book you haven't had the chance to read before.
To learn more about Banned Book Week across the US, visit the American Library Association's page about BBW: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/about
Here is a list of the 100 most challenged books from 2000-2009: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/top-100-bannedchallenged-books-2000-2009
Here are the books we have highlighted:
Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
Featuring some autobiographical stories, Sherman Alexie’s book is about an American Indian who leaves the reservation to attend an all-white school. Unsurprisingly the book contains a fair amount of strong language which many schools found too vulgar for young readers. Racism was also a hot issue in this book which caused it to be banned in many states. In one interesting case, the book was banned in Oregon schools, until the administrators read the book and then it was removed from the banned list.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn have been in the news in recent years over the decision to publish new editions of the books with more politically correct terms. The “N-word”* has been replaced with “slave” and “Injun” with “Indian.” This highly controversial change has raised the question of whether we’re promoting equality or hiding from our past. Despite the discussion over political correctness, Mark Twain has been an objectionable author ever since the 1800s when Tom Sawyer was banned from schools for not being an appropriate role model for young people.
*Perhaps ironically, I have chosen to censor this word as I find it particularly offensive and I don’t feel comfortable using it in my own writing.
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye has been banned many times for its sexual content. Graphic details about rape, pedophilia and incest have led this book to be removed from many schools despite its (well-deserved) place on recommended reading lists. If you haven’t read The Bluest Eye, expect some difficult scenes, but also expect some beautiful writing and an interesting commentary about class and race relations from the perspective of a young black girl living in the South in 1941.
The Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
This heartwarming story of two friends, who use their imagination to create a world where they feel safe and happy, has been near the top of the Banned Book List for many years. While the book contains a few swear words, and an imaginary world that one group claimed “could lead to confusion,” the biggest complaints against this book have about the religious content. Characters say, “Lord” or “Oh lord” which has been deemed profane, and some critics call one main character a poor role model because she does not attend church. One (shocking) ban occurred when a petition filed in 2002 claimed that the use of witchcraft in the novel was promoting the Wiccan religion and since the First Amendment prevents religion in government institutions (such as public schools), the book should be removed from the library.
Cujo, Stephen King
Stephen King books have been challenged in schools almost since his first publication, Carrie in 1974. His books are usually kept on special shelves, if they are included in school library collections at all. Parents and school administrators take offense at nearly everything he writes claiming the books to be too violent, too sexual, and basically inappropriate for young readers. Cujo held a place on honor on the 100 most challenged books throughout the 90s, for being what one challenger called, “profane and sexually objectionable” and another deemed, “a bunch of garbage.”
The Giver, Lois Lowry
This book has been a popular on recommended reading lists, but has also topped the charts of the top 10 most banned books. This alternate reality novel discusses some challenging topics from those that schools seem to always discourage, sexual awakening and violence, as well some more unusual topics for a children’s book, euthanasia and infanticide. In fact the main reason this book has been on banned book lists is because school administrators question whether it is appropriate for young readers.
The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
When Philip Pullman, a devout atheist, wrote his Golden Compass series, he wrote a story based on his own beliefs about the Church; basically that the Church (not religion itself) is flawed and fallible. This caused quite an uproar among religious institutions and The Golden Compass has been on banned book lists ever since. The Catholic Church in particular has felt attacked by Pullman and has publicly spoken out against this book and deemed it inappropriate reading material, especially for children.
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Ever since its publication in 1936 this standard of American literature has been banned in America and many other countries due to its language, racial content, and Scarlett’s “unlady-like behavior.” While race relations have been a common reason for literature bans and censorship in America, Gone with the Wind was originally banned due to the words “damn” and “whore.”
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire
Once a recommended book as part of a Mexican American Studies class in a Tucson school, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, along with the rest of the texts were removed from the school once the class was cancelled. Freire’s message was to change the way students and teachers interacted in the classroom by encouraging students to be active participants in their educations instead of “empty vessels” to be filled with information. This text was found to be misleading to students by suggesting that they were oppressed. The entire course was cancelled because it was deemed too radical by an administrator who had never attended a class.
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
In 1975, Slaughterhouse Five was banned from a New York School district for being “just plain filthy.” Bans on profanity have come a long way since Gone with the Wind and Kurt Vonnegut’s story of a WW2 soldier certainly uses strong language. Though perhaps in a culture of HBO, Breaking Bad, and Quentin Tarantino movies, Slaughterhouse Five doesn’t seem that profane, but many parents have called for the banning of this book due to its use of the F-word and graphic depictions of men and women.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
This hugely popular book has won the Pulitzer Prize, was an instant best-seller in the year it was published, has been translated in 40 languages, has never been out of print, and is still a standard in public school education. But that has not stopped it being one of the most challenged books of all time. The book was deemed immoral for using rape as a plot device, racist for using politically incorrect terms for African Americans, and generally inappropriate for students. Even in the last 5 years, parents and schools are finding reasons to challenge or ban this book from schools.
Where’s Waldo, Martin Hanford
While you’re searching for Waldo, also look for the reasons this children’s book has been banned: a topless woman and a naked man. True, one nipple is exposed on the sunbathing woman, but the naked camper doesn’t expose anything offensive.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
This award winning book is a truly unique story. Featuring a young girl as the hero, time and space travel, and battling evil with the help of a handsome neighbor, her little brother, and quantum physics, A Wrinkle in Time has raised a lot of eyebrows and provoked repeated bans over the years. The use of wormholes was confused with magic, and the interweaving of science and spirituality was found to be offensive and deemed everything from New-Age religion to Satanism. At one point in the story, when Jesus Christ is equated with great world leaders, L’Engle is accused of implying that Jesus was not divine. Despite the author’s own Christianity, this book was banned by many religious institutions, including the Jerry Fallwell ministry, for undermining religion.